Pirates-Giants Preview

The Associated Press

After struggling on the road for almost a month, the Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a strong start on their seven-game California trip.

The NL Central-leading Pirates look to continue that success Friday night against the San Francisco Giants.

Pittsburgh (75-52) had dropped eight of 10 away from PNC Park before taking two of three at San Diego this week then rolling to a 10-5 win at San Francisco on Thursday. Jose Tabata's three-run double highlighted the Pirates' seven-run fifth inning that broke open a game tied at 3.

"This team, we believe in us and whatever it's going to take," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We don't always know how it's going to happen but we're going to keep playing and covering each other's back and keep having fun along with it."

Pittsburgh, 33-30 on the road, has a one-game lead over St. Louis in the Central.

Mired in a 6-for-40 slump on the road prior to the opener, Tabata had three hits. He was 1 for 19 in his previous five career games versus San Francisco.

With two hits and two RBIs on Thursday, teammate Pedro Alvarez matched last season's career high of 85 RBIs. He is 6 for 14 with six RBIs against the Giants (56-71) in 2013.

The Pirates hope Charlie Morton (4-3, 3.67 ERA) can deliver a fourth straight strong start when he takes the mound Friday. The right-hander has allowed two runs in each of his last three starts and gone 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA during that span.

He lasted seven innings and struck out six during a 4-2, 16-inning loss to Arizona on Sunday.

Morton fell to 2-4 with a 3.12 ERA against the Giants after he allowed four runs - two earned - in five innings of a 10-0 loss June 13.

While Pittsburgh continues its attempt at securing the club's first postseason appearance since 1992, the reigning World Series champion Giants have lost two straight and 22 of 31 at home.

The disappointment kept coming Thursday when the team announced outfielder Andres Torres could miss the rest of the season with a strained left Achilles' tendon. That came hours before Thursday's starter Matt Cain left in the fourth inning after taking a liner off his pitching arm.

''It's definitely not what we had planned with Pittsburgh coming in,'' Cain said.

San Francisco hopes to get back on track behind Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.82), who is 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in his last three starts.

A lack of control plagued the left-hander Sunday when he allowed four runs and walked four while throwing 95 pitches over five innings before leaving without a decision in a 6-5 loss at Miami.

"It seemed like every pitch I threw (Sunday) was just a hair off and in the wrong direction,'' said Bumgarner, who has failed to record quality starts in two straight outings after doing so in his previous 10. "It was just kind of frustrating for me."

He allowed one run, nine hits and struck out 17 in 13 innings while going 1-1 in his only previous starts against the Pirates in 2011.

San Francisco second baseman Marco Scutaro delivered a tying, two-run single with just his second hit over 17 at-bats Thursday. However, he's batting .310 while hitting safely in eight straight games against the Pirates.

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